Chicago gearing up for St. Patrick's Day Parade

March 14, 2008 3:19:53 PM PDT
The weather is changing and Irish eyes are smiling. That can only mean St. Patrick's Day is just around the corner.The schedule for parades and observances has been altered in many places because the day for the patron saint of the Emerald Isle falls during Holy Week this year.

But, that is not stopping Chicago's Irish, as well as those who want to be, from getting prepared for the big holiday weekend.

A century ago, Francis O'Neill watched over Chicago as the city's police chief. Now, at the pub that bears his name, descendants of his community come together for their biggest weekend of the year with a Celtic pig roast and other traditions to spread Irish fun and culture.

"We have the best food, the best live entertainment from Ireland and musicians living here in Chicago, and we have quite a few coming from Ireland, as well. So, the best of the best perform at Chief O'Neill's," said the pub's Siobhan McKinney.

Siobhan McKinney and her husband, Brendan, are expecting 500 people each night, every night through Monday, which is St. Patrick's Day.

Chief O'Neil was the first to document music that, until a century ago, had only been passed down through an oral tradition. His great granddaughter will visit the pub Friday night.

O'Neil would be proud of Caroline, Megan and Annalise from the North Shore, who stopped in for lunch after their dance lessons and performed impromptu and acapella, in costume Friday.

Celebrating links to the past is why the Collins siblings, who were also at the pub, started their observances early Friday.

"Five years ago, our mom, Kathleen, passed 20 minutes after St. Patrick's Day," said Noreen Collins.

"She waited until it was over, and then she said goodbye," Patrick Collins said.

"Everybody is Irish this weekend, and if they haven't experienced it before, now is the time to get in on the game," McKinney said.

On Michigan Avenue, near where the St. Patrick's Day parade will pass,and beside the river that will turn green, tradition is watchword.

"I think a lot of people come in, and they want their gold coins. They want their green. They want their pretzels. So, I think it is tradition here," said Joan Matyk of Fannie May Candies

"You gotta love the Irish pride that comes out on St. Patty''s Day in Chicago. You can't beat it," said Anthony Johnson, who is from Sylvester, Georgia.

O'Neill's is not the only Irish pub getting set for fun Friday night. Go by any place with a warm-looking sign and inviting feel, and you're likely to see shamrocks on the windows.

The St. Patrick's Day parade steps off Saturday morning at 11 on Columbus Drive. It will be broadcast live on ABC7 Chicago from 12 p.m. to 1:30 p.m.